- Minjasafn Austurlands
- Donegal County Museum
- Museum Nord
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THE SACRED SHEEP!
The Icelandic sheep has been given credit for Icelanders surviving through the centuries, despite the adverse climate and other severe living conditions. The sheep thus holds an important place in the national consciousness. Even the fact that sheep played a considerable role in the country's heavy losses of vegetation and soil is sometimes disputed, although it is clear that overgrazing was a major factor in these losses. The Icelandic language is full of terms and expressions referring to sheep or to tasks related to sheep farming.
Even today, Icelanders praise sheep products, for instance by calling Icelandic lamb the world's best and saying the same thing of the wool. Sheep are integral to the proud self-identity of Icelanders, so that when they are promoting their country, in particular when marketing sheep products, this animal is associated with pure nature, diligence and perseverance.
Souvenirs are also an exciting topic for research, as they fulfil the role of symbols for the region or country which a tourist is visiting. Not only do they "prove" the tourist has travelled to the location, but they also reveal what the locals desire to sell as their image, in this case the true Icelandic ideal. Articles inspired by sheep and wool make up a substantial part of Iceland's souvenir offerings, whether mass-produced or made by craftspeople and artists. While these souvenirs often recall an older heritage, they are designed in harmony with current trends. This exhibition is an effort to bring together examples of souvenirs and crafted articles that clearly demonstrate these aspects.
ICELANDIC WOOL SWEATERS
The traditional form of the Icelandic wool sweater has become so well known and rooted in the country's image that it hardly needs an introduction, even to foreign visitors. Thus it comes as a surprise that this type of sweater has a history of less than sixty years, although many people think of it as being older.
As the 20th century began, foreign clothes, including sweater designs, arrived in Iceland in ever increasing numbers. During World War II, practically the only yarn available was lopi, which consists of traditional, loosely spun wool from the Icelandic sheep. Wartime patterns were generally adapted to suit such lopi, frequently building on traditional Norwegian sweaters with straight shoulders or other patterns. It was not until the fifties that sweaters with yokes start to appear. Although such sweaters were probably based on foreign ideas, Icelandic lopi was substituted for other sorts of yarn. The origin of the circular pattern is unknown, though it has been traced to Sweden as well as to Greenland and even Turkey.
The Icelandic wool sweater in its present form soon gained great popularity, becoming strongly imprinted in Icelandic imagery. In spite of its short history, this kind of sweater has for many become the all-time epitome of Icelandic clothing. How it managed this would be an interesting subject for further analysis.